Monday, March 30, 2015

Someone interview Steve Shields

Don't just cast him aside. Someone from the press - someone who is thoughtful and can frame pertinent questions - sit down with Shields and pick his brain about his years in Little Rock, the highs and the lows. There are a lot of good memories for me bound up in those years, and I would like to see them preserved from Steve's perspective.

For the conference as a whole, Shields was the dean of Sun Belt coaches when he was fired, and he had a long stretch to watch the conference grow and change. That story ought to be worth something.

Post-season game of keen interest to Little Rock fans

It is not often you find one like this. Former Trojan coach Porter Moser's Loyola-Illinois team will play Monroe in the finals of the CBI. We win either way.

Waiting for the shoe to fall

All kinds of things will be going on once the new coach is named: hiring assistants, sorting through the returning players, getting new recruits, getting to know the fan base. But until he is hired, there is NOTHING going on. The silence is thunderous.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Little Rock baseball on the upswing

From the UALR Baseball Facebook page:
"Until today, UALR had never started conference play with a 6-4 record, including when it was a member of the TAAC from 1981 to 1991."

The Final Four

Wisconsin is still in the hunt, and so I am interested in the Final Four, for a change. I will say right up front that I do not expect the Badgers to beat Calipari and his Rent-a-Championship bunch. Bo Ryan has a bunch of slow white kids that he has taught to play basketball the right way, but the talent deficit is just too great to expect that Wisconsin will win. They will be and should be heavy underdogs.

Oh, I would dearly, dearly love for Wisconsin to win. It would be SWEET, and a moral triumph for every kid who made it in the big time despite being thought lacking in athleticism, but who did things the right way, worked hard, and won despite all the odds. But don't hold your breath.

Big Ten has two teams in the Final Four

Let's hear it for "boring" basketball! I love it!

AD's catch 22

Admittedly it is very early yet, but the AD has to walk a tight-rope in the hiring process. There are a lot of coaches wanting jobs, and the best prospects will be waiting to get the best position, so they will be wanting to wait as long as possible to see if anything better opens up. The AD could nail down a lesser prospect early, but may have to wait to get a better one - and then he might not get him anyway and might have to settle for the lesser one. And every day he waits is one day less the new guy has to recruit and get acquainted with the players, etc., etc.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Practice right

My old music teacher used to drill into us, "Practice does not make perfect; perfect practice makes perfect." And he was right. Sloppy practice makes sloppy play. Do it right the first time and every time.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

One real gift the new coach will have

Two experienced point guards (presumably) coming back. That is nothing to sneeze at any season, and especially your first one at a program, and maybe your first one as a head coach.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The coaching hire will be the ADs decision - period

This is his first big step in his new job - his new career. No one in his right mind would let someone else make this decision for him at this point. He might take input, but he will make the decision. He definitely will want it to be the right hire, and he will want it to be a home run. He might not make it, but that is what he will be swinging for.

Lonnie McClanahan scored the old-fashioned way

It is very unusual in this day of the dominance of the 3-point shot to find a guard leading his team in scoring without shooting from the arc, but that is just what Arlington's McClanahan did. He is 6-1 and led UTA with 11.6 ppg. However, he attempted only five 3-pointers in the entire season. It is just as well, because he missed all of them. He actually completed a lot of 3-pointers, but he did it the old-fashioned way, by making a free throw at the end. He shot 168 free throws, by far the most on the team.

My interest wanes as the tournament continues

In the first place, there are just fewer teams to keep up with, and so the play does not require as much attention. But further than that, since I usually root for underdogs (smaller teams), there generally are fewer of them in the tournament at that point, and so there is just less to interest me. By the time we get to the Final Four, as often as not all the teams there I either positively dislike, or I just have no interest in them.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Nice win for Trojans golf


Linus Yip finished third.

Linus Yip 1893598

Why would Gregg Marshall want to go to Alabama?

Maybe he needs the money, but I cannot imagine that. I am sure he is compensated past any reasonable need at Wichita State. At the moment he is King of the Hill in Kansas, and there is every reason to think he can keep the program at a high level.

Furthermore, Kansas is a basketball state. People are passionate about it there. Alabama could not care less about basketball. Even if he were to win a national title there, people would mention it briefly and then go back to talking about football recruiting. Other than possibly money, there is absolutely no reason for him to go to Alabama.

Belt teams doing well in the "other" tournaments

Louisiana has won two games in the CIT, and Monroe two games in the CBI. In all honesty, those two wins probably tell us more about the quality of Sun Belt basketball than Georgia State's win in the NCAA. Nice showing by the teams from the great state of Loo-siana.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Trojans pulling foreign talent again

Golf team members from Chile, Sweden, Bolivia and Australia (2).

Georgia State's win

Georgia State’s win in the NCAA tournament was good publicity for them. It may have garnered their coach a shot at a higher level job. It no doubt increased the NBA stock of his son. It got the school a moment in the spotlight.

However, outside of a minute nudging of the conference RPI, I doubt it did very much good for the conference as a whole. The announcers may have mentioned the Sun Belt in their comments, but not very many fans across the nation will know much about us, before or after GaState’s games. Impressions are fleeting when you are outside the glare of the bright lights, and that definitely is where the Belt is on the national scene

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Wichita State does it.

They have endured the same problem we have of being ignored in a condescending manner by the Big Boy in their state. And now they beat Kansas, and beat them solidly. I love it, I love it! The little guys wins every once in a while.


Rejoicing over beating the little guys

It is just a little bit disgusting to see teams like Kentucky with all their big-money talent whooping it up after they beat up on some lower-level team. I don't know - it just seems out of place. I do no expect them to be sorry about it, but a game like that is more like merely a day's work for them. Ho hum, and go home.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Illinois-Chigago has hired an Indiana assistant

Maybe we could get a high-profile assistant. This "at" school did it.

SEC goes down again!

Alabama loses in the NIT. I love it!

The good and bad of the NCAA tournament

If it were not for the tournament, many sports "fans" would never think about basketball. It would escape their notice altogether as they transition from the football season to the football recruiting period. But because there is relatively little going on in football for a few weeks, they condescend to become temporary "experts" about a sport they totally disregard for the rest of the year. So, the tournament does force basketball into the spotlight for a few short weeks.

However, the tournament gives a totally skewed view of the basketball season, because people in general (even real basketball fans) tend not to remember the season, but only the tournament - and the tournament is NOT the season. A team could be totally dominant in the regular season, to the point of making a case for being the greatest team of all time, and have one cold shooting night early in the tournament, then be largely forgotten by history because they did not win the tournament - and that is just not right.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Any head coach candidates?

Most of the speculation has centered on various assistant coaches who will be seeking the Little Rock job. It will be interesting to see (if we ever know) how many head coaches at whatever level put their names on the list.

John Wooden before UCLA

Most basketball fans' knowledge of John Wooden begins and ends with his legendary coaching career at UCLA. But there is a lot more to tell than that.

Wooden led Martinsville High School to the state championship finals three consecutive years, winning it in 1927. He was named All-State all three years.

Wooden attended college at Purdue, where they won the 1932 Helms National Championship. He was the first player to be named a three-time Consensus All-American. (His degree, by the way, was in English.)

Wooden coached high school for eleven years. His record was 218-42.

He coached two year at Indiana State, where they were 44-15.

Then, of course, there was his matchless record at UCLA. Not bad for a kid from Martinsville.

The mighty SEC

We are halfway through the second day of the NCAA tournament, and the SEC is down to Kentucky and Fayetteville, and the Hogs just barely survived. Of course, Kentucky will probably win it all, but that does not say much about who they had to play week in and week out through the conference schedule.

Brawl of the Wild

Here is a good name for a traditional rivalry.

BOTW Header

Just get the best candidate

There has been a lot of discussion about the fact that we ought to hire a candidate who favors a particular style, or who comes from a particular background, or who does or does not have Arkansas connections. I do not care at all about any of those. Just hire the best candidate. Period.

I wonder what Conque's top priority REALLY is

To a lot of fans (maybe even most fans) who are not responsible for the overall management of the department, the ONLY criteria for hiring a coach is winning basketball games. A lot of fans would not care if the coach was a graduate of State Pen U., as long as he wins. Every AD will give lip service to the first qualification being ethics, etc. etc., but what is it REALLY? Not knowing Mr. Conque, I cannot say. Time will tell.

We weren't surprised

Those of us in the Sun Belt were not in the least surprised that Georgia State beat Baylor. We know about their high-powered starting line-up, and depth is not nearly the factor in the tournament that it is in the regular season. Baylor was playing Louisville and Kentucky (big money) talent, not the normal SBC group. I and a lot of other Belt fans got that one right in our brackets.

Who we might get is not the question

There are a lot of coaches we might get who would be glad to come to Little Rock and coach the Trojans. The question will be who we can afford.

Here's why it will not be hard to hire a coach

1. J. T. Thomas
2. Josh Hagins
3. Mareik Isom
4. Roger Woods
5. James White

The sound you hear in the background is prospective coaches salivating at the prospect.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

I wonder, just out of curiosity

Not that it makes any difference at this point, but I would be curious to know if Conque came in with a decision already made on Shields, or if he made up his mind as the season went on.

Now we know even less than usual

Except for Steve Shields' monthly updates the last couple of years and since Burn The Horse went basically inactive, we usually descend into a black hole of no information after the season ends. It looks like this year will be even worse than most. We had a pretty good list of possible recruits accumulated on the various websites that keep up with such things, but we probably can assume that none of those are valid any more with the coaching change.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Scratch everything we knew about recruiting

That's what happens when you get a new coach.

Steve Shields had a good run

He won more games than any coach in Little Rock history, and he did it without all the negative drama that surrounds so many coaches. His players generally did well in school and kept their noses clean - and if they did not, he was not afraid to encourage them to move on down the road. Shields was a coach you could root for without having your conscience bother you, and that is saying a lot these days. You did not have to hold our nose to be a Trojan fan while Steve Shields was coach.

This should have been a year when we won big, but we did not. Even with the injury to James White, we ought to have done better than we did. Put that together with the general stagnation of recent seasons, and the move to dismiss Shields was inevitable.

It is sad, because if White does come back full speed, the pieces are there for a good season next year, and the new coach likely will reap the acclaim of what Shields put together, but could not manage successfully. Such is the risk of coaching.

And so we move on. Thanks, Coach, for some very pleasant memories.


Dartmouth going to postseason


That's right. Dartmouth of the Ivy League is in the post season, even if it is one of the buy-your-way-in tournaments.

You may not realize it, but Dartmouth lost to Stanford in the 1942 NCAA tournament championship game. They had beaten Kentucky to get there.

Final Four interest?

How interested will I be in this year's Final Four? It depends.

Butler, Northern Iowa, Wisconsin, Iowa State - VERY interested
Kentucky, Louisville, Baylor, Duke - No interest whatsoever

Good tournament teams

In the tournament world, you cannot have a bad night. Every night has to be at least good enough. So teams that are inconsistent, even if they are very good when they are "on," are not good tournament teams. On the other hand, teams also have to be able to step it up a notch when crunch time comes, so they have to have a strong positive, not just the lack of negatives. Another requirement is that they must have a Plan B. Some nights the usual pattern just is not working, and so a team has to be able to tweak their game successfully "on the fly," so  to speak. That is why teams that "live by the three" will get some big upsets, but usually will not win the tournament because they tend to be one-dimensional.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

There ought to be a law

If you do not follow college basketball during the regular season, you cannot watch the NCAA tournament. (Well, maybe there ought not to be a law, but it is tempting.)

My real NCAA tournament interest is early

Since I generally root for underdogs, I do not normally have many of my teams deep into the NCAA tournament. (Wisconsin was an exception last year, hopefully this year.) So my biggest interest in the tournament is in the first weekend, watching to see which of the big boys gets embarrassed by one of us little guys.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Jersey Tech - Hats off to the Independent

Even with all the post-season tournaments we have these days, it is a difficult undertaking for an independent to make them. They have trouble scheduling, and the lack of a conference home has to hurt recruiting. Therefore it is a real pleasure to note that NJIT, the only independent in D1 basketball, has made the CIT. Well done! This has to be a huge deal for that school.


My main goal for the NCAA tournament?

To see Kentucky lose, preferably to Wisconsin. Or maybe to some nothing team. But I doubt it.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Alabama fires Anthony Grant

It is hard for me to believe that anyone in the state of Alabama cares enough about basketball to care if Grant's teams ever won a game.

Current recruiting situation

According to, we currently have offers outstanding to four jucos and a freshman:
PG Devon Thomas, Juco
SG Charles Cooper, Juco
SF Anton Waters, Juco
PF Justin Leon, Juco
PF Ramses Sandifer, HS
Plus, we already have a committment from HS SG Tyson Batiste


Post season widow

Most of the teams in the country suffer this bereavement. Sitting on the sidelines watching the favored few prepare to be in one of the tournaments. Not much fun.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

How do the good teams keep focused?

I mean the ones who are going to the NCAA tournament with a good seed, regardless of what happens in the conference tournament. Some pride involved, of course, but not much, because the bigger prize is still ahead.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Shields has not been a good tournament coach

I do not know why. Maybe he gets his players too tight. Maybe his coaching style just does not lend itself to tournaments, as opposed to the regular season.  But, for whatever reason, he has been better during the season than in the tournaments.

USA postgame

It was a fitting end to a dismal season. Take away Roger Woods, and the Trojans had practically no offense at all. We got pounded on the  boards. About the only good thing you could say is that we held USA's shooting to pretty poor levels, also. Ever since the loss of James White, this team has had practically no margin for error; we did not have an available Plan B. Last night proved it. We were cold from the 3-point line and had nothing else to bring to the table.

Gus Leeper had a solid  game in his last college appearance: 2 of 4 from the field and 5 rebounds in 18 minutes. That pretty well mirrors his career at Little Rock; solid, but not dazzling.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

How my predictions went

                  PAPPY           LINDY'S           ACTUAL

1ST            GA ST           GA ST                GA ST

2ND             LA                 LA                GA SO (TIE)

3RD             LR                 LR                 ULM (TIE)

4TH           ULM             UTA                        LA

5TH            UTA              ULM                   UTA

6TH             TSU           ARK ST             APP ST (TIE)

7TH         ARK ST          USA                  USA (TIE)

8TH        TROY              TSU                      LR

9TH            USA           TROY                    TSU

10TH       GA SOU       APP ST              ARK ST

11TH        APP ST       GA SOU               TROY

Well, about my only comfort is that Lindy's did not do a whole lot better than I did. Three of my four top picks actually ended in the top four, and I nailed UTA in 5th. But I missed the two new schools badly (App State and Ga Southern). Oh, well.

Picking winning brackets

The problem with devising a winning bracket for the NCAA tournament is, of course, picking the upsets. Most of the "experts" do not even know which teams might get an upset. And even if you do, knowing if this is the time when they will get an upset is problematical. But if you do not pick a few upsets, you probably will not win the bracket contest, since things will never go exactly according to form.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

USA pregame - Third time a charm?

They beat us by 3 in Little Rock. They beat us by 2 in Mobile. We are inching closer. Maybe this time will be the charm.

Since we played them last, they are 5-8. However, they won their last two games against Ark State and Troy.

The thing you notice about this team as you look at their stat sheet is that their rotation is very short - only seven players. Their starters play a LOT of minutes, so we need to be aggressive offensively and get them into some foul trouble. They shoot the ball pretty well from the arc (34%). They are minus-1 rebounding. However, they have turned the ball over exactly 100 more times this season than their opponents.

Sagarin picks us by 3.

Set the time bomb

This time of the season is when the time bomb starts. The next game could be the last game - if the bomb explodes. That is one of the reasons I dislike the tournament championship system: it guarantees that all the teams but one will end the season unhappy. (Isn't sports a wonderful thing?)

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Josh Hagins, All-SBC

Congratulations to Josh Hagins for his selection as Third Team All-Sun Belt. It is well deserved. If there had been a Sixth Man award, he should have won it, because he has given the Trojans a shot in the arm, especially offensively, all year. He is well on his way to being one of the all-time great Trojans.

Time for the pseudo-fans

They come out of the woodwork this time of year. They pay no attention to basketball whatsoever except for two or three weeks, when they all become "experts."

Monday, March 9, 2015

Count on it: there will be more roster changes

At the moment there are 15 names on the roster. Two of them are walk-ons and reportedly Stetson Billings' scholarship was given to Roger Woods with the promise that he would get one next season. (Whether or not that is true, or whether or not that happens are anybody's guess.) That makes 12 scholarship players. Two of those are seniors - Gus Leeper and Ben Dillard. That means that there will be three spots open, with one of them supposedly going to Billings. One recruit has already committed to us, which means that there ought to be only one more signee this spring.

Now, if you believe there will only be one more recruit, I'll sell you some oceanfront land in Wyoming. If Steve Shields survives this year, he will no doubt be under a dire "or else" mandate, so he will be forced to make some moves. If this roster did not get it done this year, why think they would next year? If he does not survive this year, the incoming coach is going to want to shape the roster to fit his style and philosophy. So either way, more changes are going to be made. Stand by for the action.

We have to get some height

At the end of this season our only player over 6-8 will graduate. Our only player listed over 6-7 is hurt; presumably he will return. Our only committed recruit at the moment is a guard. This team must addresss its inside game immediately, or next year could be a disaster.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

A disappointing season

I hope we win the Belt tournament and go to the NCAA. It would be good for the program. But even if we do, especially as I put much more emphasis on the regular season than on tournaments, it has been a bad season. Even though we played well toward the end, we just did not get it done this year, and that is disappointing. We had some injury issues, but this team could have done better. This team should have done better.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Kentucky's stacked schedule

Much has been made of Kentucky's undefeated regular season. But how tough was it? They played ONE true road game in the non-conference season (at Louisville).  Most of the season they were the only ranked team in the SEC, and the team that became ranked late in the season (Arkansas) they played at home. They played some pretty good teams, but they managed not to play any of them (except the one) on the other team's court.

We have offered Charles Cooper

According to Rivals.


The great coaching mystery

Where do things stand with regard to Steve Shields' job? Well, the AD would know. Who else knows I could not say. I figure there are three possibilities:

A. Short of a really strong finish, the decision has already been made that he is history. The AD wants to make a strong statement and will use Shields to make it.

B. Short of a complete meltdown at the close of the season (which did not happen), the AD has already made the decision to give Shields another year so that he can examine the situation first hand.

C. The decision will come down to how the team does over the last few games of the season.

But then, all this is pretty self-evident, isn't it? Now, I wonder which is the truth.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Louisiana postgame

A tough way to end the regular season. We stuck with the Cajuns all the way, but just could not get over the hump at the finish. Playing smallball as we are, it is not surprising that we got KILLED on the boards 39 to 21, and that is a pretty big hole to dig for yourself, especially when you let the opponents shoot 43% from the arc. Really, looking at the stats, it is amazing that we hung with them as well as we did.

Good games by several players. Let's give the game ball to J. T. Thomas, who had 14 points on 5 of 11 from the field, and had 3 assists against one turnover. Nice efforts also by Roger Woods and Mareik Isom. Josh Hagins had12 points, but it took him 13 shots from the field to get them. However, he had 5 big assists against zero turnovers, so he had a good night except for shooting. We had 11 assists against only 5 turnovers, so we did an excellent job in that regard.

The bottom line of this game happened elsewhere. The teams lost that had to lose, and we are in the SBC tournament. So our season lasts at least another game. Go Trojans!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Let's get as many "At" school as possible in postseason

Time for the "other" schools to get it done. Stand up and be counted. (I absolutely HATE this logo.)


Speaking of Ben Dillard

His 3-point shot may be off right now, but if the game is one the line and it comes down to free throws, he is the guy I want shooting them.


Wednesday, March 4, 2015

We need to finish strong

This has been a VERY disappointing year, to say the least. It would help take away just a little of the bad taste if we finished with a little win streak.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Louisiana pregame

We were the Cajuns' first conference game, and we will be their next-to-last one. They are 17-12 overall, and 11-7 in Belt play.The bad news (for us) is that they are on a four-game winning streak that included Georgia Southern. So, they seem to be rounding into the shape we had expected before the season began.

They likely will start 6-9, 6-6, 6-4 across the front line. That may force Shields to adjust his lineup a little. Shawn Long is their horse again, averaging a 17/10 double/double and shooting 55% from the field. Brian Williams is their only other double-figure scorer, but they also have two over 9 ppg. They shoot well (46% and 35%) and defend well on the arc (31.8%). With Long in the mix they dominate the boards by 6. And they have a whole stable of good 3-point shooters.

The question for us will be if we have anyone who can even slow down Long. Who are we going to put on him? Gus Leeper is as big as he is, but is he quick enough? Is Mareik Isom strong enough to handle him? Like as not we will have a 6-5 guy trying to guard him at times. It could get ugly if we are not careful.

Sagarin has Louisiana by 9. RealtimeRPI has them by 15. They may both be conservative.

Track and field - the elementary sport

Running the fastest, jumping the highest or the longest, throwing the farthest. Those are what athletes do in the sport of track and field. Just the basic, elementary functions of physical exertion. Nothing fancy. No trickery. Just do it better than the other guy. Sport at its most basic level.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Small blues

If neither Gus Leeper nor Mareik Isom is in the game, which is true a lot of the time, then we are playing with no one taller than 6-5. That is not very good for a lot of high school teams.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

February was fun

I do not know if Coach Shields will be back next season. Worrying about that is not in my job class. The team plays the games, not the coach, and I root for the team. What I do know is that the month of February was an enjoyable month. After a miserable conference start, we were 6-2 in February, and one of those losses was in overtime to possibly the best team in the league. The Trojans played well, and I enjoyed it. The staff coached well, and I enjoyed it.

Feeling for Ben Dillard

After 3 1/2 seasons of being one of the best 3-point shooters in school history, Ben Dillard has hit a very cold streak, and I feel for him. I do not know him personally, of course, but his public demeanor seems to indicate that he is a class act. But in the last four games he has gone stone cold from the arc. He is 2 out of 17 over that stretch, and 0 for 9 in the last two games. For whatever reason, his shot has deserted him, and it is painful to have to watch (or listen to, as the case may be).

What is interesting is that in the same four games, Ben was 11 of 12 from the free throw line, so he still can shoot. We really need for Ben to regain his stroke for the stretch run this year.

Where we stand down the stretch

We are currently alone in 6th place, 5 1/2 games out of first. We have one game left at Louisiana, where we will be a decided underdog. There are ten teams to make the eight spots for the Belt tournament. (App State is not eligible.) Troy is already out of the running to beat us, as they are 8 1/2 games out. So, we only have to beat one other team.

Ark State is now the 9th team. They are 7 games out, or 1 1/2 games behind us. They have two games left, both at home, against USA and Louisiana. Our magic number against ASU is one, meaning a win by us in our last game or a loss by them in either game guarantees us a place in the tournament.

USA and Tex State are tied with App State in 7th place, a half game behind us. USA has games at Ark State and at home vs. Troy. Tex State has games at App State and at Monroe.

So, at the moment the odds look pretty good of our making the Tournament. Three teams behind us in the running for the one remaining spot.

Arlington postgame

It is always tough to win in conference on the road, and Arlington is a pretty good team. Lonnie McClanahan had a monster night against us: a double/double in a non-conventional way with 18 points on 7 of 10 from the field, and 12 assists. We held them to 33% from the arc and shot 40% ourselves, but they shot 58% overall, and that is tough to overcome. You won't win many games against that number. Plus they beat us by 5 on the boards.

J. T. Thomas had a rough night at point with three turnovers against only four assists, so that did not help. Give the game ball to Mareik Isom with 14 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 of 5 from the arc. However, his three turnovers did not help our cause. Roger Woods chipped in with 16 points and 6 rebounds, and Josh Hagins with 14 points and 5 rebounds. One real problem for us was our 13 turnovers against 12 assists, not typical of us this season.

But the big story of the night was McClanahan. We just did not have an answer for him.